Interval Sets in the Pool: That and Ladder Sets


It’s a bit funny to come back from USRPT for so long and then write up something on interval sets. USRPT is entirely interval sets with a particular frame of reference. For most of us interval sets are the best ways we know of maintaining paces for long times.

It also gives us a solid foundation for our marriages to the pace clock. Marriages as you know need time, and nothing can glue your eyes to a pace clock like doing interval sets for a couple hours a day.

Ok the basics: you do multiples of a particular distance on a particular time. For instance:

Do 10 repetitions of 100 yards on 2 minutes.

Or expressed in swimmer short hand:

10×100 on 2:00

Now that means as you swim the 100s if you finish before 2 minutes you rest until the clock hits 2 minutes, then you set off on the next one. You can also set a target time with an anticipated amount of rest.

10×100 on 1:45/2:00

This means that you are shooting for the 1:45, and then take 15 seconds rest to leave on the two minutes.

Now all of this depends on what pace you can hold. You could also do much faster pace work with more rest. Or you could allow the motivation for speed to be the increased rest that comes with finishing faster. Swimming sets can also be done over longer distances allowing even more accurate measure of your pace.

Longer distances like 300s, 400s, 500s and so on give you a chance to measure your pace as you hold it for longer times. This is incredibly helpful if you are trying to improve for a long distance swim or a triathlon. For iron man swimmers, doing sets of 1000s can really help give you a sense of what pace you can hold.

I should insert a chart here to let people know how to calculate times for longer distances, but I’ll put that in on another day. Tomorrow I will write up something about how we set our pace for work outs using T30s, T3000s, and other trial sets.

For now, I will say that if traditional interval sets get old, mix in some ladder sets. For example these are calculated on the 1:45 pace:

100 on 1:45
200 on 3:30
300 on 5:15
400 on 7:00

That’s a 1000 yard set broken up. Repeating it gives you 2k, and you can do that either by climbing the ladder again or going back down. Add a crest of 500 before heading down and you get 2500 yards – just a little over the distance required for a half iron man.

On of my favorites is done with just rest intervals (10s of rest between each distance):

50 on 10s
100 on 10s
150 on 10 s
200 on 10s
Repeat 2x

That’s another 1000 yards. When you do sets on rest intervals you can check your pulse after your done to see what effort you were at.


About Sean Smith

Husband, Father, Pastor, Swimmer, Writer, Reader, and attempted Adventurer!
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